Recently in Miami, Fla., Ken White (Elma) Mike Tammen (Portland, Ore.) Bill Moss (Malibu, Calif.) and Stuart Siaki (Orlando, Fla.) won the International Tennis Federation’s World Team 55 & Over Men’s Seniors Tennis Championships.
“Although I have been fortunate to have won many national titles in senior tennis winning my first world title with the players on my team is without a doubt the highlight of my tennis career. The key to our winning the gold medal was the team’s camaraderie and never-say-die attitude against some very strong competition,” White said.
Each match consisted of two singles and one doubles match. White’s team would have to play five grueling matches on their way to the world championship in competition that included 28 teams from all over the world.
During the first two days of competition White’s team advanced by defeating highly regarded Ireland and Canada by the scores of 3-0. “Fortunately, the hard courts surface played to our strengths, especially mine, as the best part of my game is my serve and forehand,” White said. “The other players also played at the top of their games.”
In the quarterfinals, Team USA defeated highly-rated Great Britain, 3-0.
“We knew that our semifinal match against France would be our toughest match of the tournament and our assumption proved to be correct. France had been a many-time world champion and gave us all we could handle.”
After splitting the first two singles matches to tie the score at 1-1 the final doubles match came down to who else but White and Tammen.
“The pressure on my partner and myself was unbelievable. We were playing for the United States, not just for ourselves. If we lost the match we would be out of the tournament.”
The match took over two hours with White and Tammen emerging victorious with a scintillating 6-4, 6-2 victory.
“The final scores were not indicative of how hard the match was,” White said.
Their victory moved the USA into the gold medal round against Italy, and the USA capped it off with a 3-0 win.
White gave a lot of credit for the overwhelming support of the local crowd that saw the match.
“What a thrill it was. In addition to winning it was a wonderful feeling to capture our title in the United States.
“Without a doubt it was one of the toughest tennis events that I have ever played in. However, I was just thrilled to be part of this great team. It is a memory I will always cherish.”
Some tennis followers are not aware of White’s tennis background before he started playing senior tennis. His accomplishments rival those of some of WNY’s all-time greatest players.
White is one of five brothers, who were all excellent athletes. When he was 9, he started playing baseball. From the ages of 9-13, he and his brothers played at a very high level. At the age of 13, virtually without any lessons, White took up tennis.
“I was fortunate to pick the game up very quickly.” White said.
Bill Gregory was the tennis coach of Tonawanda High School. He saw White playing tennis and was greatly impressed with his tennis talents without ever taking any lessons.
In eighth grade he played third singles. By his sophomore year he was playing first singles. His main strengths were a booming serve and forehand.
“I loved the game. Even though I was playing well, I knew I needed some improvement,” White said.
White started playing tennis at the Village Glen Tennis Club. Bill Monkarsh was the legendary men’s tennis coach at UB. He’s a member of the Buffalo Tennis Hall of Fame and a former City Doubles Tennis Champion. He also had an outstanding reputation as a tennis coach. When he first saw White play he was in awe of White’s awesome power when he was hitting his serve and forehand.
When Monkarsh approached White to come out for the tennis team, he was stunned when he found out that White had never taken a tennis lesson. He started hitting with White almost every day.
“Coach Monkarsh was a grinder,” White said. “He worked with me to greatly refine all of my skills with consistent drilling. His teaching and leadership skills were nonpareil. Whatever success I have had in tennis I owe to Coach Monkarsh.”
White’s career at UB was legendary. He played for the team his freshman year and played fairly well. By the time he was a sophomore his game went to another level. Many of White’s incredible accomplishments at UB follow:
• Ranked as high as No. 3 in singles and No. 8 in doubles in the East in Division III.
• SUNYAC Singles and Doubles Champion for four years from 1984-87.
• Part of SUNYAC Team Champions in 1987.
• NCAA Division III All-American in 1987.
• UB first singles player most of UB Tennis career.
• Tennis Coaches Association All-American in 1986 and 1987.
• Only UB All-American in Division III in UB history.
• Inducted into UB Hall of Fame 1995.
After graduation from UB, White started working for Business Form Consultants. Although he loved his job, it greatly curtailed his tournament play. He was still ranked in the area’s Top 10 by the Buffalo News for an incredible 20 straight years.
When White was in his early 40s, he started playing more tournaments to get ready for senior competition locally and world wide when he turned 45.
He won the Muny Open City Singles title in 2005 and 2006 in his mid 40s, becoming the oldest player in history to do so. He also reached the finals two other times against Nick Ziezuila, UB’s No. 1 player. In both matches he was leading in the third sets before losing extremely close battles.
When White turned 45 he started competing throughout the United States and Canada, winning 36 national titles in men’s singles and doubles. It is a record that may never be broken.
White is presently coaching the Medaille Men’s and Women’s tennis teams.